Finding Spirit in Music

Music has been known to lend itself to spiritual experiences.

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Music is everything.

It can give us hope in moments of despair, comfort in times of heartbreak and hurt, joy in celebration and excitement, and provides a calming, soothing atmosphere when in search of relaxation and zen. Music is transcendent, it can whisk us away, put us in a trance, and at times even offer what feels like an out-of-body experience, so really it’s no wonder that music and spirituality can so often, harmoniously (pun intended), be linked together.

Writer, Frank Fitzpatrick, examines spirituality and music in an article featured on Huffington Post, looking to the definition of spirituality, he writes:

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines spiritual as “relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” As we go back further in time, spirit comes from Latin spiritus—which is most simply translated as breath, but also identified with courage, vigor, and soul.

I first witnessed spirit and music dancing blissfully together on a trip to South America.

I went to Peru in 2011 for a long vacation; while the trip itself was incredible and like nothing I’ve ever experienced, it was also difficult. I experienced culture shock for the first time; it came in waves of feeling total gratitude for what I had, to moments of feeling awestruck, to devastation in realizing how little I knew, and understood. I was floored by the world around me and the people living in it—the conditions of their lives so drastically different from what I was accustomed to.

We were in Cusco during Festival Del Sol; the entire city was buzzing with color and sound. Marching bands, men, women, and children, all dressed in traditional attire, dancing wildly, laughing, smiling, parading through the city center and cheering. Truly, I’d never seen anything like it. The Festival of The Sun, or Inti Raymi, served as a religious holiday, one of great importance for the Incas, and according to Lonely Planet it “celebrated the Incan New Year and winter solstice, when the sun was furthest from this side of the Earth.”

I found myself completely lost in the celebration, enamored with the sounds and colors, and the energy being emitted by the performers, and viewers alike. Their spirit was contagious. We were all linked in that moment, tourists and natives, brought together through the music and celebration.

You don’t need to be in the middle of Cusco for the Festival Del Sol to have this kind of experience, though. Musical performances, concerts, festivals, even huddling around a subway performer, these moments all have a unique way of uniting us, allowing us to step outside of ourselves and into a vessel of absorption, all completely engrossed in what’s taking place before us.

Lovers of sound and movement, all together in one space to feel it all, together. Susan Cords tapped into this feeling, quoting “music psychologist Heiner Gembris” in her article for DW, she writes how he understands the transcendent quality of music and “expresses the phenomenon as such: ‘Music is like the flap of an angel’s wing. It touches us and lets us sense the momentary presence of something that transcends the boundaries of our captivity in the world.'”

I found myself completely lost in the celebration, enamored with the sounds and colors, and the energy being emitted by the performers, and viewers alike.

Not the concert-going type? Have your own private music moment, or simply tune it to the music that surrounds you; the Earth produces it’s own music if you listen closely. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore, rain drops catapulting to the ground in a downpour, birds chirping elated with the onset of spring time, leaves rustling in the wind—everything is, and has, sound. Oddly enough, one of my favorite sounds on Earth is the absolute serene silence that comes from heavy snowfall, the way an entire town and city can fall quiet moves me in a way that’s truly hard to describe. I could sit (and have!) in the middle of a field blanketed in snow and absorb that sweet silence until my cheeks go numb.

According to Psychology Today writer Jeanette Bicknell, Ph.D., music “can engage us deeply, taking us out of the world of our everyday cares and concerns,” and, “Of the variety of psychological states that music can arouse, perhaps two of the most highly prized are absorption (a kind of ‘effortless involvement’) and dissociation or detachment.”

I remember when I was younger I was embarrassed by everything, afraid of everything, terrified of ridicule and judgment. As I grew older this slowly began to fade as I learned to build confidence, and at 19, sitting sixth row at a Jason Mraz concert having one of the most incredibly moving experiences of my life, he said my absolute most favorite quote I’d ever heard. He encouraged the crowd to get up and dance, move, let the music hit us and respond to it in whatever way felt good, and right. He said to us all, but what felt like right to me, “Don’t let your mind keep you from having a good time.” So I lived the music, I sang, I cried, I danced, I disassociated from any and all feelings of anxiety, and fear of judgment.

I didn’t let my mind get in my way of having an absolutely fantastic, life-changing time.

How does music affect you, and your spirit? Let us know in the comments below.

Maggie Peikon bio2Maggie Peikon is a New York native, writer, and sufferer of insatiable wanderlust. An avid endorphin seeker she has a constant need to be moving, seeking adventure in all she does. She is a lover of travel, daydreaming, fitness, thunderstorms, and her dog, Finley. Despite the fact that she has to take medication daily due to a thyroidectomy, Maggie still believes that laughter will always be the best medicine. Follow her musings on Instagram and Twitter.


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